Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Returning to randonneuring in New England

This weekend will mark my official return to randonneuring, the relatively non-competitive style of long distance cycling that has been around since the end of the nineteenth century, tracing its origins to Italy and France.

I got interested in randonneuring events early in graduate school when my girlfriend at the time had a very odd roommate named Mike who had a passion for the sport and had completed the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris a few years before. Mike was into safety meetings and riding the Marin Headlands on week days. I had way too flexible of a schedule and was often up for ticking off the miles along the Pacific coastline with him while everyone else was at work.

The San Francisco Randonneurs were a wonderful group to ride with and begin to explore California by riding longer and longer distances. I got up to a 300K, about 190 miles. It was a great ride, but also made me question why I wanted to ride such long distances. Why end with sore ankles and a desperate need to get in a hot tub to ease the muscles when we could just stop at 60 miles and have a beer?

I'm a much better cyclist now and ride a more appropriate bike for the work, so I'm looking forward to getting back at it with The New England Randonneurs, a very well-run group based in Boston and Vermont that hosts a variety of rides in both Massachusetts and Vermont, dipping into NY, CT, and NH at various points.

Brevet card. Sometimes it seems that half the fun of randonneuring is receiving actual pieces of paper in the mail that are not a result of failing to turn on e-delivery at my bank.


This Saturday my teammates Hans, Sam, and I will depart Hartford at 6am and aim to make it to downtown Portland, Maine at 6am on Sunday morning--about 226 miles in 24 hours. That's plenty of time to do the ride, but the rules of this event--what randonneurs call a Fleche, modeled after an original, social, Easter ride organized by Velocio in France, requires that you complete the last 20km after hour 22 to discourage rushing to the end and encouraging (requiring really) longer breaks. I really like the idea of riding from the city in which I live to another city, albeit a much hipper one, over the course of a day. I'm lucky that teammates were also up for a Hartford start.

2/3 of our team.

I attempted a Fleche (minimum 360km, must ride it over 24 hrs) in California with three friends, several years ago; we tried to ride from the foothills of the Sierras, through Napa and Sonoma counties, out to the ocean, and home to San Francisco. We didn't make it when one of our team members started to have some knee issues and we were tempted by the prospect of abandoning at Calistoga Hot Springs.

My California Fleche team: Jill, Jade, Kelly, Justin, plus large gold miner (in Auburn, CA)

There are no hot springs between Hartford and Portland, but there are a lot of good places to stop for food and drink. Our first stop will be Chickpea Diner in Worcester for brunch, about 70 miles in, just the first segment of a very big day on the bike. There are five other teams riding different routes to Portland and we'll all get together for some food and a beer on Sunday morning.

Team 'Bash Bish Brothers' will be leaving from the Maple Ave Dunkin' Donuts in the South End this Saturday if you want to come wish us luck and grab a very early donut.

- Justin

I'm riding this VO Pass Hunter I built up this winter. It has been a great bike.



No comments: